Roku Channel Looks To Hit A Fastball With FAST Baseball Deal

Major League Baseball is coming to a FAST channel -- The Roku Channel -- as it looks to boost its profile with broader-appeal marketing and little or no downside.

FAST (Free Ad-Supported Television) includes TV brands, like Roku Channel, Tubi TV and Pluto TV. 

For some, these platforms are a place where a lot of library TV content resides -- but not necessarily original fresh programming.

These services are also places only with "limited advertising-support." There is plenty of advertising to watch -- if that’s your thing as a viewer. And from a business perspective, that could be a big deal.

But is FAST really free? To get those TV networks, viewers will need some streaming set-top-box equipment or smart TV on-screen streaming platform to access those channels. 



Viewers will also need to pay for broadband access. And they also must endure those advertising breaks -- and either consume those messages or avoid them to an extent by muting. Again, these are not “limited-advertising supported” channels. Far from it.

For Major League Baseball, this could be a major move towards a dramatic gain in monthly active users -- a measure TV-streaming advertisers consider in their valuations of a service.

For the past two years, NBCU's streaming channel Peacock licensed the “Sunday Leadoff” game. MLB may be making more TV-streaming deals  to build on this. 

To understand why, consider that baseball -- in terms of popularity, perhaps overall revenue and viewership in some metrics -- lags far behind the NFL and the NBA.

What better way to appeal to a wide range of TV viewers looking for live TV programming than to move to free TV-streaming?

This follows the move of some local TV station groups returning to air local TV market baseball teams. That is happening as some of the big regional sports networks -- especially Diamond Sports Group -- are facing major financial challenges due to TV consumers cutting back on their pay TV deal-making in search of more economical TV services (like streaming).

Baseball has a different supply-and-demand formula working against it: A massive number of regular-season games, at 162 per team.

By contrast, the other major sports leagues' games can feel more valuable to viewers, with lower supply and higher demand (both viewers and advertising): The NBA has a 82-game schedule, while the NFL has a 17-game regular-season schedule.

But the good news is that MLB can use all that extra game content for pure-promotional messaging that comes when putting its games out there for easy consumption. It can create different TV-streaming game packages.

Platforms like Roku Channel can also benefit from adding in more live, linear TV sports content where they can sell higher-priced advertising.

Baseball is being straight with the strategy -- no curve balls. Just right down the plate. Viewers and advertisers will take swings.

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